Florida Hometown Democracy's Amendment 4 on the November 2010 ballot will give voters veto-power over changes to their local master land-use plan. Right now our commissioners and council members have total control over these land-use plans that determine the future of our communities. Developers have made millions overbuilding our communities.
Legions of good people all across Florida are sick to death of the fruitlessness of trying to oppose the poorly conceived plan changes that developers request in order to build on our precious to us, cheap to them, wetlands, conservation land, and farm and forest land -which current land use plans rule as inappropriate for development.
Under the current system, corruption is just too easy. Not a week goes by that we don't read about another elected official apprehended or indicted for taking bribes from developers in exchange for approving the land-use changes that will make the most profit for the developers, never mind the higher taxes for extended infrastructure and services that we poor taxpayers then have to provide for these new homes.
Developers, and politicians for allowing it, through overdevelopment, have harmed our economy. The weakened economy has forced city and county commissions to raise taxes and fees, and cut library hours, law enforcement, and other services to balance their budgets.
Now that they have ruined the economy, politicians are being lobbied by developers (who donate massive amounts of money to their campaign chests) to weaken controls. It happened recently at the state level with the passage of Senate Bill 360, signed by Governor Crist, which repealed major state growth management laws, and it's happening at the local level across the state.
Once the economy improves, if we allow this, we will be inundated with overgrowth which will once again fuel the boom-and-bust cycle.
Sun Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas recently observed,
"There are 300,000 empty houses in Florida."For Lease" signs have replaced merchandise in storefront windows. Office vacancies are skyrocketing. The state's population is declining for the first time since World War II. Yet there are requests pending to build more than 600,000 more homes, along with millions more square feet of commercial space. There are plans to conjure up massive new cities from scratch in the middle of nowhere. This is like treating Type 2 diabetes with Twinkies.
…The Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries o f Florida are complete frauds. They spin yarns about economic diversity, about improving the quality of life, about investing in schools and universities to upgrade our work force. Then come crunch time, it is back to build-build-build."
Florida's growth machine is desperate to preserve the current regime and desperate people say desperate things. Voters need to brace themselves for a tidal wave of developers' lies about Amendment 4. Amendment 4's opponents, those in favor of "build-build-build" are so desperate that they are reduced to making up lies...and the big lie they are circulating now is St. Petersburg Beach.
Ryan Houck, Executive Director of FSG, is circulating rumors that are just plain incorrect. Florida Hometown Democracy's Amendment 4 will not "hurt the economy " by replicating the St. Petersburg Beach's jump-the-gun fiasco, as he and other developer-opponents are charging.
Castleman claims that St. Pete Beach tried Hometown Democracy and it didn't work. In point of fact, the process the opposition is screaming about isn't Hometown Democracy at all. In St. Pete Beach they didn't follow the Hometown Democracy process - not in the least -- and that is why they ended up in trouble.
Amendment 4's implementation will never have the "St Pete Beach Problem," as it simply adds one step to the current State-mandated Growth Management review-and-approval process. That is, after the local review process is completed, and the council/commission vote is taken, then -- and only then -- does the proposed change - and only those changes that have been approved by the council or commission -- go to us voters for final approval or veto.
Enough already! What kind of legacy do we want to leave our children and grandchildren? Do we want them to inherit a history of wise land use or the same developer generated boom and bust economy of higher taxes, lost jobs and lower property values with which they have stuck us?
Amendment 4 is way overdue. We've needed it for far too long.
- Bett Willett
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